Ella’s shoulder – A moment of light in the mania of motherhood

Ella & I are shopping one night. She has had a mammoth afternoon nap, and I have been learning about the non-negotiable requirement of 10 minutes of no-distraction time with each child so I decide to take her to Genesis PNP with me.

Shopping is one of her time favorite past times (I can’t wait till she can drive). It is a gorgeous time together; the shop are basically empty, we are dancing in the isles and I don’t protest as she puts all the things she “needs” in the trolley – like chocolate and dog food (we don’t have a dog).

As we are walking out, I am overwhelmed with exhaustion. Working days & broken nights and pre-dawn wake ups slam into my head.

“I am so tired I could fall over”, I think out loud.

Ella looks up at me with concern and with complete genuineness asks, “Do you want to sleep on my shoulder, mommy”?

My heart stops. I look at these sweet girl – challenging at times, stubborn always and very, very demanding some days. The neediness of mothering sometimes is suffocating. Yet in that moment her pure soul shines through all that stuff.

“I would love to”, I say.

She thinks for a bit and gives this irresistible smile and says “But my shoulder is too little”. She giggles at the thought of me fitting on her shoulder, and we go home.

The whole week I think of this moment. When she refuses to bath or insists on wearing summer clothes on icy days or wants to hit her baby brother, my heart melts and my eyes fill with tears. In my moment of need, my 2 ½ year old daughter offers me what I offer her when she is tired– to sleep on my shoulder. Her safe place. She offers me her safe place.

Everything of being a mom is giving, giving, giving. But for this moment, she is offering something precious of her own to me.

And so even though I can’t fit on her shoulder, I know it’s all worth it.

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Lessons from my 2 year old: Why husband doesn’t notice your new dress

Ella (2 1/2 years old) is jumping on the trampoline in her new skirt from Israel which she refuses to take off.

Her best friend David (3 1/2 years old) comes down to the garden and sits on the grass showing me his new truck books with some car named Mater in them.

Ella stands on the end of the trampoline: “David, look at my new flower skirt, it’s pretty”, she squeals at him.

David looks up at her quizzically and after a few moments looks back into his book.

Ella shouts louder: “David, look at my beautiful skirt”.

David looks up again and is confused. He scrunches his eyes together in concentration and then he goes blank. She may as well be talking to Chinese. He returns to his book.

This happens a few times. Ella is desperate for her best friend to appreciate her new skirt which she loves so much.

But David doesn’t get it. He tries to, but just has no clue how to respond. Her pretty new skirt is out of his universe.

She eventually gives up; and they both go fight over the blue bike.

This small interaction, almost insignificant, stays with me all day.

I imagine this scenario in 25 years from now.

Girl is married, and she gets a new shirt. As she did at 2 years old, she assumes & wishes that the world around loves and appreciates what she does. So she expects that her husband will compliment her new shirt. But of course he doesn’t.

Depending on her level of maturity and self-worth, it could go many ways. It could easily turn into hurt and anger and disappointment. It could spiral into defensiveness and disconnection.

“If he really cared about me, he would notice”

“If he loved me, he would remember…..”

Yet this toddler interaction is the truth. There is no malice or cruelty involved. There is no intention or viciousness. David tries to understand. He looks up and hears her words. But he just has no ability to respond.

And likewise, Ella takes no offence. She tried a few times, and then moved onto a subject they could connect over.

Imagine. Imagine our relationships if these disconnects were handled with such neutrality. Imagine if our spouses/friends/parents’ limitations were simply experienced for what they are and forgiven in the moment.

And Ella? David and her play/jump/fight happily for a while, and later she shows her new skirt to her granny and together they obsess over the flowers and the colours.

Why I am a mother who hates children

I hate children. Hate is probably too strong a word. But I have never liked children. I tolerate my nephews from a distance. One of the most excruciating days of my life was when I taught a playgroup for an hour. I am not a misanthrope. I like people a lot. I like talking to people and connecting to people. But I don’t know what to do with little babies and children. I like having conversations with some semblance of intelligence and reciprocity.

I know people who are the exact opposite. Like my husband. He adores babies and children. He befriends random babies in queues and they swoon at him in return.  All our friends’ children know him and love him. Another friend begs to hold new babies. I am not like that. I never baby sat or taught or ran day camps voluntarily. I was never the maternal type. I don’t think I ever played “mommy, mommy”.

I even find my own new-borns foreign. New-borns freak me out. They are so incomprehensible and demanding and needy. They don’t even smile. My daughter is now two years old, and every day I am enjoying her more. Feeling authentic connection to my three-month old baby still challenging. There are moments of pleasure but it’s hard. Being a mother is very, very hard for me.

So, I was understandably baffled when; last night after a particularly horrid bed time with a screeching baby and a tyrannical toddler; an undeniable truth filled my being. I was overwhelmed by the fact that  “I love being a mother”. Now I am not the happy-clappy mother-nature type of person. I am very vocal and honest about the challenges of motherhood. Sure, there are wonderful things. Like huge smiles when my baby wakes up and him melting into my arms at bedtime. My daughter sprinting into my arms when I fetch her from school. And watching her learn sophisticated negotiations techniques and dancing with her. But there are equally, if not more, horrid things. Like never waking up naturally and all kinds of bodily fluids in my bed and never being independent and having no remaining vocabulary and never going to the bathroom alone.

So I did not know where this very enlightened thought came from. Looking back, I was not always how I am now. I consider myself reasonably kind and nice and decent. I am no modern-day Mother Theresa, but I  mostly try to be nice to my circle of family and friends. But this wasn’t always so. I was a hideous teenager & young adult. I was extremely aggressive, angry, hostile and exceptionally cliquey. I struggled to connect to people. I was very outgoing but I was gruff and hard and prickly. I was pretty selfish and self-absorbed. As I got older, I slowly mellowed. I began to shed the hard exterior and became less afraid of my vulnerabilities and others’ feelings. I learned how to access a part of myself which is compassionate and kind. But I still harbour a deep belief that essentially I am a horrible person. I fear that essentially I am selfish and unkind.

And that is why I love being a mother. The cute perks of raising small children do not yet outweigh the challenges.  I love who I am when I am a mother. Because even though I am no longer prickly and hostile and selfish, I still fear that I am. But when I am with my kids, I am undeniably generous. I am mostly (even if I am faking it) considerate and compassionate and caring to my children. I am finding patience I never knew possible when making the bottle just right.  Although I would give a lot to have a decent night sleep, or curl into bed on a rainy Sunday with a book; being a mother does not allow for that. Being a mother demands that I develop a way to transcend my moods, and put aside my desire for chunk of solitary time. And by doing so, I am gaining trust that perhaps I am not essentially unkind.

So while I love my children so much that I want to squash them into pieces; being their mother means I am finally learning to love myself.


How my new baby ruined my plan for a good New Year

Ten days after our little boy was born, Elul arrives. Normally a time of deeper introspection and heightened awareness, the days and nights blur into each other as the all-consuming demands of a new-born rule my existence. I feel far. Far from the dawning year, far from the potential connection that is possible.


Year after year, I sit in shul on Rosh Hashana and pray. I ask G-d for health and healthy children and safety and livelihood and everything that we need to survive. But mostly, I ask him that I fulfill my unique purpose in the world. I am constantly reminded of the absurdity of human existence. Since the first man was created thousands of years ago,  billions of people have been born and people die. Billions and billions of people engrossed in the minutiae of life and mostly are forgotten. I take my own choices of what to make for dinner so seriously, but ultimately it is all irrelevant. So on the New Year, I tell this to G-d. I tell him that I don’t know why I am alive, but if it is so that I am that it must be His will and I trust that it is. And subsequently there must be a purpose for my existence. And so I ask him to please allow me to fulfill my unique purpose in the world as that is all that will make it worthwhile. There must be something which I alone can achieve and contribute.


Three am ticks on. I am jiggling and rocking and walking my newborn up and down. I will do  anything to get him to sleep. And to stay asleep. I am resentful and angry. I want to be sleeping. I do not want to be up every two hours pacing my living room. Morning dawns and I am sick with fatigue. And so begins the next day, the same as the one before. I live for the moments of sleep which I know will not suffice. Each day, I look at my list of tasks and wishes. Articles to be written, blogs to be updated and projects to be completed. Yet the accomplishments are limited to being showered, dressed and giving my toddler some attention. I am silently angry. This child is taking me away from what I should be doing. I should be writing and thinking and creating. Not stumbling through the day. I take my daughter to school, excited to be returning to Yoga after all these months. Yet she wont let me leave. Every time I say goodbye, she asks me to stay a mittle-bit. It takes me 30 minutes, and I arrive at yoga bedraggled half way through the class.


I used to dread these days surrounding the New Year. The judgement, the fear, the self-confrontation. Yet slowly without me even noticing my attitude changed. And this year I find that I look forward to them. I get so lost so caught up in the mundane aspects of life. I become lackadaisical in my prayers, my learning evaporates and my consciousness and mindfulness is lost. Lists and lists of doing occupy my days. Doing, doing and more doing. Food to buy, meals to cook, people to call, friends to see, errands to be run.  Even in the rare quiet moments I make more and more lists. And then comes the New Year. We acknowledge that it is G-d who is king. He is in control. For two whole days, we get to practice being. Being in His presence and to take a step back from the repetitious daily life. We can spend two days focusing on nothing except that there is a will which is not ours, and that we do not control our life. And this is both frightening but comforting. I take comfort in this fact of that it is all a result of his will. I cannot control everything. I can do my best, but G-d’s will is what prevails. And I try to internalize that everything which happens, my job the friends my health , is all because he wants it be exactly like so. And even though I may have a different plan for my life at this moment, the reality is that every single aspect of my life is nothing but His will.


Approaching the New Year I am physically in survival mode. Yet this morning, I was nursing my son and I realized that my deepest wish was being realized – I was doing my unique purpose in this world. There was no one else who at that moment could give my baby what I was giving him. Someone else could give him a bottle, and hold him but no one could ever be his mother. And that his non-sleeping habits are what G-d intends. So as  much as every year I spend the entire day in shul on Rosh Hashana, deep in prayer, I realize that this year will not be like that.  Even if I do get to shul I doubt I will have the stamina and concentration of previous years. But it does not mean I miss out on what Rosh Hashana is. For instead of getting angry and being resentful and wishing I was able to daven properly while I am taking care of my children, on Rosh Hashana I give up my will. For now, He wants me to pace the halls and stay a mittle-bit and be a mother of two precious little children.  This year, I choose to relinquish my idea of what my life should be, and embrace His. For that will bring joy and connection to G-d which I desire.